I miss breastfeeding

When I look at my tired old breasts now I see vestiges of what they once were – what they could be. Light and empty, they hang there useless against my chest. I miss breastfeeding. When I see both new babies and older toddlers at their parent’s breast for nourishment and comfort, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach. My almost-2-year-old still asks for milk at bedtime every now and then, even though It’s been over a month since we weaned. She asks with a sadness in her voice, because she knows I have no milk left to give. Instead, I let her rest her hand on my chest and I listen as her mouth starts making that nursing sound into the darkness. She would still derive so much comfort and connection from breastfeeding.

There have been very few moments since weaning that have made me feel thankful for being done with breastfeeding. Ocassionally I’m happy to have a bedtime to myself, but mostly I just miss laying with her anyway, and my poor wife still struggles with being our daughter’s second choice. I listen through the monitor as she drifts off to sleep next to my wife, muttering “mommy on other side the door? Mommy missing?”

I thought I’d be thankful for the freedom of having my body back, but all that freedom afforded me was the ability to have more than one drink before bedtime, and it turns out that two drinks makes me feel rather nauseous now. I’d much rather be able to feed and comfort my child with my body than to have my body all to myself for the purpose of having more booze.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post – I’m just writing down my feelings. I don’t regret weaning, per say, but I do now question my motives for weaning when we did. From the moment breastfeeding started to become second nature to us, I assumed we’d continue on until she weaned herself. I assumed that would be well after the age of 2. But I wanted to help my wife feel like less of a “second” parent. We felt that ending the breastfeeding relationship that bonded us together so powerfully would create more of a level playing field between parents. But the truth is, I’m still in the role of primary caregiver. I spend way more time with our daughter, and that makes me more in-tune with her needs, and that makes me the natural first choice to come to when she needs something.

I also question myself now for being motivated by social pressure. I felt it as soon as she turned one. People were often surprised to hear that our daughter still nursed to sleep (or nursed to sleep at all, since that’s frowned upon by more conservative, by-the-book parents). When I expressed some mixed feelings about weaning, a family member told me that she was too old for that anyway. I heard a lot of comments about independence, and how breastfeeding a toddler was effectively keeping her dependent on me, like I just couldn’t let my baby go even though she wasn’t a baby anymore.

I know there’s no turning back, and I’m ok with that. I’ll always let her rest her hand on me, where she once got all of her nourishment, comfort, and that rush of love hormones. I’ll always smile when I hear that tongue clicking noise in the night, as her muscle memory lives on. And when she looks at my chest now with love in her expression and asks to plant a kiss on a part of me that was always there for her, my heart will always melt into a puddle on the floor. Despite society’s perverse warning that breastfeeding toddlers and older children will leave them with inappropriate memories of nursing at their mother’s breast, I know that my daughter has happy memories of our breastfeeding relationship, and I hope she’ll always feel that special, nourishing, connection to me.

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I am not a breastfeeding parent.

We had planned for Sunday night to be our last time breastfeeding, but I got cheated out of that one last time, and my sick and vomiting child had to get through the night with no milk earlier than we’d planned. And now there’s no turning back. Let me explain…

Saturday night was my wife’s night to do bedtime. We were at the cottage. Avery seemed to understand what we’d been telling her about the milk supply soon coming to an end. She seemed to be starting to accept the fact that her Mo would be putting her to bed more and more. Usually, when my wife puts her to bed, she cries and calls for mommy for about 5 minutes before giving up and happily reading books and cuddling with her Mo until she falls asleep. The easiest way to get her to settle is for me to say a super quick goodnight and leave. I can’t even hug her goodnight or she’ll cling to me like super glue and it’ll make my departure much harder.

But Saturday night, she sat on her bed next to her Mo and turned red in the face as she held in her tears, and she extended her puckered lips toward me for a goodnight kiss. I got to kiss her goodnight and leave the room and she didn’t cry, for the first time.

While my wife did bedtime, I was watching the sunset over the water and drinking Prosecco (because cottage and no breastfeeding duties). I’d had 3 drinks. My wife rejoined me after Avery had fallen asleep. All was well with the world.

And then we heard a cry. It’s now unusual for Avery to wake up again in the evening, and we knew it was a cry of “something’s wrong.” My wife investigated. Minutes later, I was called to the scene to change her vomit-covered sheets. Avery had a stomach bug (thankfully a mild one). She vomited three times. I quickly changed her sheets while my wife changed Avery’s pajamas and washed the vomit out of her hair and off her face with a damp cloth. Avery reached for me. Because of the situation, my wife and I agreed that I could step in. I hugged her. I sat with her until we knew the vomiting had stopped. I laid down with her. She asked for milk, but I couldn’t give it to her because I’d had three generous glasses of alcohol. I simply said “I’m sorry, I know you want milk because you’re not feeling well, but there’s no more milk.” (She did have water and almond milk right beside her). She didn’t even whimper a protest. She simply wrapped her arm around my neck and snuggled.

She lay there with her eyes open for about 15 minutes, and eventually fell sound asleep, for the first time (with me) not on the boob.

So we decided to take that win and not turn back. If she can fall asleep next to me without freaking out for milk when she has a stomach bug and has just vomited all over herself, she can fall asleep this way every other time.

Theoretically.

For now, I miss her intensely at bedtime. I ran an errand at bedtime last night just to get out of the house, and I cried in the car.

And although bedtimes have been going well so far, our first nap (not in a car) did not go well. That’s on me because my wife is at work over nap time. I’ll wait out the week before writing about the nap situation.

Weaning for good…?

Weaning is on my mind again. Since 18 months we’ve only nursed to sleep at nap and bedtime (with the exception of a couple of bad sicknesses that required extra comfort and hydration). Now Avery’s coming up on 22 months and I’m trying to find the motivation to wean her completely. It’s not that I mind nursing her to sleep still, but the occasional night where someone else puts her to bed is filled with tears and I feel terrible for stepping away for an evening. I figure if she’s fully weaned it’ll be hard for a short time and then infinitely better at bedtime.

But what if it’s not. What if it’s harder for the next however many months because she really, really loves nursing and she’s not ready to have it taken away? Ever since we cut out the 5am nursing when she’d cuddle back to sleep until 7, she has woken for the day at 5am. Unhappy.

And although she often sleeps completely through the night now (from bedtime till 5am), once or twice a week she’ll wake in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back to sleep, constantly asking for milk in a tired haze, whimpering when I say “no milk, let’s cuddle back to sleep.” She usually drinks her water when she’s turned down for milk, so I know she at least has that, but she would still benefit so much from being able to nurse back to sleep when that happens.

So why did we stop offering it through the night? Because night weaning really did change our nights for the better. When she knows milk is an option, she won’t settle for anything else. So I’m wondering, hoping, that completely weaning her will open doors for her in self-soothing (a term I use lightly, recognizing it’s not an ability that all young people should be expected to have). But it’s a hard transition to make, and this may seem silly, but I feel like I don’t know how to wean her. I don’t know how to stop doing something we’ve done for her entire life, and our entire lives together. I feel like it deserves more thought than just deciding to say “no more milk” one night and just expect her to get it and get over it.

Any advice from those who have fully weaned is welcome.

First period in almost 2-1/2 years

I’ve been expecting this. We night weaned a month ago, and I’d heard that breastfeeding at night keeps your prolactin levels up which can keep your period away. About 2 weeks into night weaning I started getting signs that I was ovulating – those old familiar signs that I used to get so excited over when we were TTC. And then today I got the first period I’ve had since my daughter was conceived in December 2015.

First, let me say how thankful I am that it was anticlimactic. I was worried that I’d have a horrible first period, with mammoth cramps and a monsoon-like flow. Instead, it came conveniently when I had my morning pee, and I didn’t feel a thing. I’ve always had really severe PMS cramping, likely because I had mild PCOS and cysts on my ovaries. I had some periods that I now know were really close to the pain of advanced labour contractions. So if this first post-partum period is an accurate representation of my future of periods, I’m a happy camper.

Despite the drama-free resurgence, I’m still feeling a lot of mixed emotions. It’s a symbolic end to the most meaningful time in my life so far – growing and nourishing my daughter as my body’s primary function in life (note: to each her own when it comes to what brings your life meaning). But I know that as she grows I’ll find more of my life’s meaning and purpose in raising her to be a well adjusted adult.

Getting my period also signifies a new beginning. I can now conceive again. We’re not trying for baby #2 for a long time still, but it feels different to be a fertile woman again. Being on my period is connecting me to the person I was before having a baby. I feel like I’m reclaiming my body as mine; it’s been primarily my baby’s for so long.

It’s a mixed bag of emotions, for sure. And even though I didn’t really experience any PMS this time, I still ate an entire chocolate Easter bunny because I always used to self-medicate my PMS with chocolate and wine. Old habits die hard.

Just another post about weaning from breastfeeding and #sleep.

Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.

It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.

The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).

We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.

This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.

So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.

Wish us luck…

3 Things on Sunday

1. My PhD research proposal was accepted!! I waited a month for my advisory committee to come together for a meeting, and the meeting went amazingly well. I can finally – after 3 years and 2 other proposal attempts that fell through for different reasons – finally, move on to actually DOING THE RESEARCH and finishing this f-ing degree and get a job.

2. I had my first me-time in a long time getting my hair done this weekend, but thoughts of how expensive it was going to be and how much I just wanted to be home with my little family made the whole 2 hour process unenjoyable. It’s funny how you can be at your wit’s end with trying to keep up with your demanding toddler’s needs and then in only 5 minutes of being alone feel like your heart is aching from missing that wonderful, demanding toddler.

3. Night weaning is going really well, but sleep isn’t… It’s complicated. Avery has been sick forever and the cough still keeps her up at night. The doctor assures us it’s normal for kids her age in daycare to be sick for this long, and for things like runny noses and coughs to linger well beyond the duration of the actual bug. She’s also struggling with yet another itchy post-viral rash (apparently she’s prone to them). So she does a lot of crying through the night, and I used to be able to make her feel better by nursing. Now we just put a hand on her back and lay next to her while she fusses, and she doesn’t even ask for milk to help her get through it. She just deals with it. It makes me proud of her, and also sad that the instant comfort phase of her life is over. She makes her own comfort, now. That said, last night she was really upset, and I brought her into our bed to sleep on top of me. Just because we’ve night weaned doesn’t mean we’ll let her suffer all night or go without sleep.

The good news is, she usually goes from 7pm to 4am with only one wake up that we need to go to her bedside for (that one wake up takes 2 minutes for my wife and an hour for me, though). The bad news is, 4am is when she wakes up for the day now… We’ve let her have an earlier nap to compensate, but that just messes with her afternoon energy levels. Can’t wait for her to settle into the new normal without night (and morning) nursing and hopefully find a good rhythm we can all be happy with.

Reflections on Night Weaning (at it again…)

*Photo from Pixabay.com

Night weaning is hard, even when it’s easy. Avery’s only nursing twice a day now, to sleep at nap and bedtime. It’s a big change from nursing all night long, snuggled beside me. We’re doing this to give her a gentle nudge toward sleep independence, but it’s just as much about me breaking my dependency on nursing away her every tear, every cough, every nightly stir. That has been such a wondrous gift, and although I’m theoretically ready to make the separation, my heart never will be.

I miss her as I lay in my bed and listen to her snore through the monitor. I feel jilted that I can’t lay with her all night anymore (part of our night weaning plan). I feel anxious waiting for her next wake up, wondering how difficult it’ll be to get her back to sleep, how many tears she’ll shed, how long the protest will last.

We have officially been one week without night nursing. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before claiming that the transition period is over, but so far Avery’s doing a really good job learning to get back to sleep without nursing. Last time what broke us was her 3-5am insomnia, and her being sick. Both of those things are happening again, but we’re powering through this time. With every month older she gets, she can also understand better what’s expected of her at night, and that makes me feel better about it.

With the huge decrease in nursing comes a change in hormones. I’m getting some signs that I might be ovulating for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Yes, you read that right – I haven’t had my period since we conceived Avery. It has been a wonderful, crampless, dry, and clean part of my life. I’m not eager for it to return.

One final reflection on night weaning: choosing to night wean was a decision I made for my marriage over my child. That alone has a lot of complex emotions associated with it. And while my wife is purely excited, I have to keep reminding myself that my marriage deserves to get priority over the child this once. It will all trickle down to benefit Avery in the long run. If my wife and I are a satisfied, happily married team, Avery will have a good relationship role model to look up to in her parents.